Okay, there have been other films containing fantastic elements released in the past few weeks, but I think we can agree that THE BYE BYE MAN is the first release of 2017 that actually intended to be a 'horror' film.
And naturally, it's a holdover from 2016. I suppose a release date of Friday the 13th was irresistible, as was the opportunity to continue tweaking the film into submission (blatantly cutting it down to a PG-13 and beefing up the special effects, among other things... I suppose the inevitable 'unrated' edition will result in some cool stills on the Net, but don't ask me to sit through the whole movie again just to get to the 'good' stuff).
Nevertheless, I did my perceived duty and trudged out to see this... and at the very least, I can tell you that even though the filmmakers wouldn't mind if you made the association on your own, this is NOT a take (authorized or not) on the "Slenderman" phenomenon. Yes, the title apparition (Guillermo del Toro favorite Doug Jones) is tall and skinny, but that's about it... THE BYE BYE MAN initially takes its cue from a previously published short story, and if my sources bear me out, that story was the actual meat of the 1960s prologue and flashback featuring Leigh Whannell as a terrified but determined reporter.
Now, THAT is actually some pretty impressively grim stuff. The sort of material that makes you wish the movie would just hang out there instead of jumping to the "Present Day" resurgence. Because once you hit the modern story?
Okay, be patient with me while I rehash. After all, I saw the actual movie so you don't have to. Young college student gets a 'steal' rental on a spacious off-campus house. He moves in with his best (male) friend AND his own girlfriend simultaneously. Three's company. Awkward. But that's rent-splitting for you. They have a party while our protagonist's experienced older brother offers sage advice about college life. Big brother ALSO brings along his little daughter because he sees nothing wrong with having her tag along to raucous beer-pong-infused events where various and sundry characters run upstairs to fornicate. He also sees nothing wrong with bringing the munchkin with him towards the END of the film, just so we can worry about what's going to happen to her, but that's another story.
Sigh. Antique end table says "Don't say it, don't think it" a million times. Guy peels off the paper and reads the name beneath it anyway. Seance. Psychic warns that everyone's in deep dippity-doo. Hallucinations (?). Google search. Library archives. Suppressed history. A visit to the old lady who knows the truth. And yes, it really is Faye Dunaway, and no, I didn't recognize her. Shame on me.
Yep, it's the same old, same old yet again... but here's what the trailers did NOT tell you. While THE BYE BYE MAN is in no way a take on Slenderman, it actually turns out to be a long-delayed sequel to Neil Simon's THE GOODBYE GIRL!
We first pick up on this when our hero suffers the first of his increasingly nasty hallucinations. He keeps walking into his bedroom, hoping to find his girlfriend lying there waiting for him... instead, he's repeatedly subjected to the spectacle of Richard Dreyfuss playing a guitar in the nude.
It seems that Elliot Garfield never got over the humiliation of how he was directed to play King Richard III in Simon's original. In fact, his flamboyant portrayal earned him an unwanted nickname. So in order to escape the constant teasing, Garfield started his own mantra of "Don't say it, don't think it. Don't say it, don't think it" as he attempted to blow town on a train. Unfortunately, a big friendly dog kept following Garfield onto the train, and they kept throwing Garfield off the train with it, contemptuously tossing a couple of subway tokens at him in the process.
So that's how Elliot Garfield became the "Bye Bye" Man, and why the coins clink whenever he's around, and why there's a big, phony, stumpy CGI hellhound following him around and begging for walkies, and why he's obsessed with choo-choos. If there's a better explanation for any of this in the movie, I never found it.
Let's face it, once the doggie on the wallpaper turned its head to the camera and made a snarly-face at the viewer, there was no possible way to take any of this seriously again. Even for a moment.
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